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Texas lawmakers: NASA, we have a problem

By Kim Segal and John Zarrella, CNN
Lawmakers are demanding a shuttle for Houston, home of the Johnson Space Center and NASA's Mission Control Center.
Lawmakers are demanding a shuttle for Houston, home of the Johnson Space Center and NASA's Mission Control Center.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Houston is home of the Johnson Space Center and NASA's Mission Control Center
  • But it was not on the list of locations that will receive retired space shuttles
  • U.S. House members from Texas have sent a letter to NASA wanting to know why
  • The 17 lawmakers say they are prepared to use legislation "to stop this wasteful decision"

(CNN) -- Texas lawmakers are demanding to know why the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston was not chosen to be a permanent home of a retired space shuttle.

In a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Texas delegation asked the administrator, "What factors did you use in making your decision?"

NASA announced Tuesday the locations to receive the four remaining space shuttles -- three historic orbiters and the program's test vehicle. The space shuttle Atlantis will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida; the Endeavour, at the California Science Center in Los Angeles; the Discovery, at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia; and the test shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

During a teleconference after the decision was announced -- with Houston conspicuously not on the list of locations getting retired shuttles -- NASA officials were asked where Houston's bid had failed.

NASA's assistant administrator, Olga Dominguez, whose Strategic Infrastructure Office made the site recommendations said, "Houston did not in any way, shape or form fail. It has always been a critical piece of NASA's shuttle and space program. We just did not have enough to go around, and Houston and JSC (the Johnson Space Center) will always be a critical piece of NASA's space program and of our future."

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Dominguez said the locations selected offered the best value to the American public, including domestic and international access. Dominguez said all of her office's recommendations were followed by NASA Administrator Bolden.

The Johnson Space Center is where NASA's Mission Control Center is located and it is the center for human spaceflight research. Because of the important role the Johnson Space Center plays in human space flight, it was not just Texans who were shocked that a space shuttle would not be going to Houston.

But it is 17 members of the Texan House delegation who say in the letter that they are prepared to use their power in Congress, "including legislation to prevent funding of the transfer, to stop this wasteful decision."

NASA had no further response Thursday to the Texas delegation.

The decision the lawmakers seem most concerned about is the one to send test shuttle Enterprise to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. The Enterprise currently is on display at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia. The Enterprise, which never flew in space, will be moved to New York so the Smithsonian can make room for Discovery.

"It defies logic for a shuttle to go to New York City, a place with no connection to NASA. It's like putting the Statue of Liberty in Omaha," Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said in a statement.

Housing a space shuttle is not just an honor -- it means money, according to the executive director of New York's Intrepid Museum. Susan Marenoff estimates that once the shuttle is in place, her museum will see an additional 300,000 people and $106 million in economic benefit.

That is a benefit Texans believe is rightfully theirs. Rep. Pete Olson, also a Texas Republican, bluntly reiterated that in a statement, saying, "No city in the world deserves a shuttle more than Houston, certainly not New York."

 
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